Younis retires from Twenty20 with a plea
Younis Khan used cricket's grandest stage to announce his retirement from Twenty20 internationals, and make an impassioned plea for teams to once again tour his country. The Pakistan captain, speaking after Sunday's emphatic eight-wicket World Twenty20 victory over Sri Lanka, hoped the result would go far to saving cricket in his homeland, which is struggling to attract the interest of younger generations with no international matches being played within its borders.
Younis' final act in Twenty20 international cricket was to lift the trophy that so narrowly evaded Pakistan two years prior. No immediate announcement was made as to the identity of his successor as 20-over captain, but it is likely Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal will be the leading candidates.
"This is my last Twenty20 game," he said at the conclusion of his press conference. "I'm old now for this kind of cricket."
Younis will continue to play Test and ODI cricket, and hopes he will again have the opportunity to lead his national team on home soil. The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan - highlighted by the March terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus outside the Gadaffi Stadium - has prompted national boards and the ICC to push for Pakistan's home matches to be played in neutral venues. Accordingly, Younis' men now lead a virtually nomadic existence.
Younis has previously warned that the absence of international cricket could kill the game in Pakistan and push impressionable youngsters into the clutches of terrorists. Speaking at Lord's on Sunday, he implored teams to return to Pakistan, and expressed hope that his side's World Twenty20 victory would help reinvigorate interest in cricket among his nation's youth.
"I am requesting to all of the countries: 'You must come to Pakistan'," Younis said. "Everybody knows law and order is not good but it is not our fault. Especially for youngsters, we need home series because everywhere there is no cricket in Pakistan. How can we motivate the youngsters, especially at school level and college level? I think this will be helping us build a new structure in Pakistan for our future.
"How can we promote cricket to our youngsters if there is no international game in Pakistan? How can I motivate my son and my neighbours' small children? That's why we need cricket in Pakistan. Law and order is not good, but this is not our fault. We are suffering at the moment from these kinds of things. I think sports should be away from politics."
Younis dedicated Pakistan's World Twenty20 triumph to his former coach Bob Woolmer, who died during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.
"This final must go to Bob Woolmer," he said. "He was doing good things with us in 2005 and especially my cricket. I would be very proud if he was alive and sitting with me because he's a very nice guy and was a father figure for us. Why I am captain is because in 2005 - at that time I was not a regular player for Pakistan - he was the guy who all the time was chatting with the chairman and the selectors that Younis will be the next captain. So because of him I have become a captain. I dedicate this final to Bob Woolmer."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo